University addresses consequences of Kyoto cancellation

March 28, 2011, 2:39 a.m.

Following the Bing Overseas Studies Program’s (BOSP) decision to cancel its Kyoto program for spring quarter, the University has formulated alternative plans for students who planned to spend the term in Japan.

According to BOSP Executive Director Irene Kennedy, the decision was finalized when the State Department issued a travel warning for Japan. BOSP consulted with numerous university offices in deciding to cancel the program, including the offices of the President, Provost, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Risk Management, Vaden Health Services and Environmental Health and Safety.

“Stanford has a long-standing policy of not sending undergraduates on Stanford-sponsored programs or with Stanford funding to countries with State Department warnings,” Kennedy wrote in an email to The Daily. “At the same time we reached our decision, all Stanford faculty, staff and students currently in Japan were urged to leave by Stanford’s Department of Risk Management.”

Though BOSP has previously canceled two three-week overseas seminars in China due to the SARS outbreak in 2003, the Santiago program remained in session during Chile’s 2010 earthquake. Kennedy attributed this decision to safer circumstances in Chile.

“There was no State Department warning and Chile’s infrastructure was able to respond quickly,” Kennedy said. “The events in Japan are tri-fold: earthquake, tsunami, radiation leaks. Events in Chile were less complex.”

Students enrolled in the Kyoto program were offered a variety of alternative overseas studies opportunities, including the option of applying to study in Moscow, Santiago, Paris, Florence or Beijing in the fall of the 2011-12 academic year. Students applying for winter and spring quarter next year will receive preference over other applicants. Lastly, these students automatically receive admission to next spring’s program in Kyoto.

For spring quarter, all Kyoto students will remain in their current on-campus housing with only one student moving within the same dorm. Returning students who were slated to occupy spaces that would have been vacated by Kyoto students have also been accommodated in alternative, on-campus housing.

“We traditionally have vacancies [during] spring quarter in undergraduate housing because more students go overseas in the spring than in winter and because some students graduate early,” wrote Rodger Whitney, executive director of Student Housing, in an email to The Daily. “Given the small number of students affected by the cancellation of the Kyoto program this year, we have been working individually with the students staying and the students returning from off campus to provide all with the best housing situations for spring quarter.”

“As of this writing, we are gratified to be able to report that all the situations where rooms currently assigned to students who are now not departing which had been assigned to someone else for spring quarter have been resolved,” he added.

Vinh Bui ’12 was the only Kyoto student required to change housing for the spring. According to Bui, Housing contacted him, explaining that his original room in Mirrielees had been changed from male occupancy to female occupancy. Housing resolved the issue by assigning him to a room down the hall.

“If I had to move out of Mirrielees, I would have been very upset because it would be a hassle to move out of the dorm entirely, and because I like living here,” Bui said. “Fortunately, there were two males who needed a roommate, and one of them is a close friend who lived only around the corner on the same floor. It all worked out in the end.”

Bui now hopes to co-term or take a fifth year at Stanford in order to participate in the Kyoto program in the future.

Not all students, however, are so lucky. Charles Naut ’12 will not be able to go abroad next year because he plans to be a Resident Computer Consultant (RCC) in Storey.

“I have been planning this trip for a while,” Naut said. “I’ve wanted to study abroad in Japan since high school and have been thinking about the Kyoto program since my freshman year at Stanford.”

Naut said the change in plans would free up time for senior year and allow him to be here for things he would have otherwise missed, including his roommate’s graduation. Naut hopes to independently plan a trip to Japan and other parts of Asia once the travel warning on Japan is lifted.

Kyoto student Mindy Phung ’12 spoke about the possibility of contributing to relief efforts in Japan.

“There are a couple of us who are interested in going to Japan to do relief work even if it’s not through Stanford,” Phung said. “It would be a cool opportunity for Stanford to coordinate efforts and make a bigger impact, but it really depends on the State Department warning and Japan’s willingness to accept volunteers.”

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